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Building a Path to Gender Equality and Justice in Taiwan 2018/06/28

Can you imagine that thirty years ago in Taiwan there existed young girls who were forced into prostitution? The youngest of these girls was only eleven years old!

 

Angie Golman, founder of GOH, met this eleven-year-old girl—who was the same age as her daughter—in 1984 when she worked at a shelter for young prostitutes. She said to the Lord: “I can no longer continue with this line of work unless you show me a path, so that I can leave this place with hope in my heart and share the redeeming love of Christ with these girls.”

 

As she continued to pray, she came to realize that love and kindness were not enough to mend the broken lives of these girls. Miraculously, the Lord granted her a vision of establishing a halfway house where the girls could learn to love and forgive themselves, as well as other people, and be given the opportunity to start a new life.

 The Garden of Hope was born from this vision, and Christians Wan-Hui Liang, Cheng-Tsung Shang, Hsi-Tsung Su helped establish this new organization by donating their money, time, and effort. The shelter for young prostitutes was built from scratch, starting from one rented house, one desk, one telephone, and one bed. Finally, they were able to raise NT$ 1 million in 1988, and the Garden of Hope Foundation was legally established and registered. It is hard to believe that this was thirty years ago!

 

At the time, a field report on prostitution was released at the Asian Church Women’s Conference (ACWC) that sent shockwaves globally. Pi-Ying Liao of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan hired a group of aboriginal young men to conduct field investigations at numerous brothels located in the notorious Pao-toh Village; these young men interviewed prostitutes in their mother language while disguised as clients, paying a price of NT$ 300 per 15 minutes. Among the interviewees, 63% were under the age of 18; 60% of the underage girls started prostitution work at the age of 15 or earlier, and 40% were aborigines. Normally, these girls work ten hours a day, with 23% of the interviewees—most of them under the age of 16—seeing between 30 to 40 clients a day.  

 

Te-Fu Hu was one of the aboriginal men who participated in this field investigation. He became increasingly devoted to the liberation of young aboriginal girls from prostitution and trafficking, even rescuing several girls by force with some of his friends of the same tribe. He wrote a song called “The Beautiful Mothers of Dawu Mountain” to speak on behalf of these oppressed girls.

 

In these thirty years, the GOH has played its small part in the democratization process of Taiwan, witnessing the end of martial law and one-party rule, and the first ever change in ruling party. Throughout this process, the GOH has supported many female victims—girls who were trafficked and exploited, homeless girls, victims of sexual assault, pregnant teenagers, and victims of domestic violence—and helped restore the glory and beauty granted by God to these women and girls.

 

Because the GOH cares, we deeply feel the suffering imposed on women’s bodies and souls by the violent and oppressive structure of society. So where does this violence come from?

 

The GOH has stressed the importance of both service and advocacy work, and a lot of effort has gone into changing this violent structure with the passage of numerous laws in this thirty-year period, including the Child and Youth Sexual Exploitation Prevention Act, Sexual Assault Crime Prevention Act, Domestic Violence Prevention Act, Sexual Harassment Prevention Law, Human Trafficking Prevention Act, The Protection of Children and Youths Welfare and Rights Act, and Gender Equity Education Act. In terms of legal protection, Taiwan is a certainly a leader in Asia, if not the world. But has this really changed the violent structure of society?

 

According to the 2016 report “Statistics on Female Victims of Relational Violence in Taiwan”, commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence is 24.8%, which includes emotional, stalking, harassment, physical, and sexual violence. There were 117,550 reported domestic violence incidents in 2016, reflecting a rising trend.

 

Unfortunately, the global #MeToo Movement that took place last year had very little effect on Taiwan. Even though the GOH assists #MeToo victims every day, very few celebrities in Taiwan have spoken out about their experiences of being sexually harassed or assaulted, and no perpetrators have been identified.

 

The ultimate goal of the GOH is to end sexual and gender violence and build a society with gender justice. Some people say the GOH is writing the history of Taiwan, but it is more accurate to say that the GOH is practicing the teachings of Christ on this island.

 The GOH hopes that at the beginning of life, no infant is abandoned as a result of gender selection; when in school, no pregnant student is forced to quit her studies; when at work, no female worker is sexually discriminated; when in love, no one becomes a victim of violence when any conflict arises; and at an old age, no one is abandoned for any reason. We hope to fulfill our vision of building a society with gender justice, where every gender identity is seen as a friend and treated fairly!

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